Former TU hoops star Marcus Damas ’14 nets a slam dunk with a marketing company that links entertainment and sports celebrities.

Damas scored 1,140 points during his TU career, earning him membership in the Tigers’ exclusive 1,000-point club.

Towson’s forgettable 2011-12 season is arguably one of the worst in NCAA Division I basketball, but the team’s leading scorer, Marcus Damas ’14, rose above it and continues to benefit from those lessons learned while overcoming loss after loss.

“That was painful,” Damas recalls of the 1-31 record. “We didn’t expect to be great that year but we didn’t think it would be that bad either. The coaches kept telling us to hang in and look to the future. That’s one of life’s lessons.”

Today the 27-year-old Damas is the CEO of his brainchild, Fueled by Culture, a Long Island, New York-based marketing firm that connects sports and entertainment celebrities with brand-name companies. It’s a business where one knocks carefully on tough doors and when they don’t open, knocks again. It’s much like picking yourself up after a disappointing setback on the basketball court.

The cavalry arrived for the 2012-13 season in the form of players like Jerelle Benimon and Rafriel Guthrie. Bolstered with reinforcements the Tigers again made history, going 18-13 to record college basketball’s largest season turnaround.

Damas, the squad’s resilient leader, was a starter in 96 of 98 games. His 1,140 career points earned him membership in the Tigers’ exclusive 1,000-point club. “It taught all of us that you can succeed with patience, perseverance and energy.”

Head coach Pat Skerry couldn’t imagine his first year as Towson’s head coach without Damas, who was the new skipper’s first scholarship player.

“Marcus took a chance on us and bought into our vision for the program,” Skerry says. “He was our emotional leader. He was as tough a player as we’ve ever had here. He’s really responsible for a lot of the success we’ve been able to have. I’ll say this—in my 26 years of coaching he’s right at the top, one of the greatest guys I’ve ever been associated with.”

After a shoulder injury curtailed Damas’ first season of college basketball, the McDonald’s All-American candidate out of Bay Shore (N.Y.) High School arrived at TU following a year at Westchester Community College (14.0 ppg, 9.0 rpg) where he caught the eye of a number of Division I schools.

“I had a few Big East looks too, but none of them felt like home,” Damas says. “Skerry was pitching family and being part of Towson for a lifetime. That sold me immediately.”

Since childhood Damas had dreamed of playing professional basketball. After graduating with a degree in communications studies, his agent, Noah Croom (currently the assistant GM for the Minnesota Timberwolves), found an opportunity for him with the Solna Vikings in the Swedish League.

But Damas left after just one season.

“My goal wasn’t to go overseas, it was to play in the NBA, or at least domestically somewhere that I could try and satisfy the ambition,” Damas says. “In Europe it was still a great feeling because I was able to play, but there was this disconnection. It didn’t fill the void of me being with my family which was huge to me. I had my son on the way. That was something I wanted to come back home for.”

Damas surprised Croom when he sought his agent’s help to muster out of basketball into the business world.

“Noah admitted it was the first time that one of his players had ever approached him about wanting to stop playing basketball, but he was committed to helping me,” Damas recalls. “He connected me with EA Sports and I hit the ground running.”

A leading publisher of sports video games, EA Sports is a subsidiary of the parent company Electronic Arts, Inc. Damas served as a consultant, assisting with its motion capture, game soundtracks and advising the company on the urban culture—what kids might or might not like. He also began connecting EA Sports with NBA players.

“EA Sports was the driving force to get me going,” Damas confesses. “It wasn’t long until I wanted to step out on my own. After watching the markets and gauging their needs, I came to the conclusion everything is fueled by culture. For instance, look at the path Addias took after the hip-hop group Run DMC came out with “My Adidas.” It turned that company around. Or like Nike, which was struggling until it connected its brand to Michael Jordan.”

What Damas needed was an event to launch his idea. With the help of social and digital media marketing strategist Karen Civil, a private dinner was arranged between an odd couple—rapper Young Jeezy and Fortune magazine.

“At the time I didn’t know Jeezy,” admits Damas, by then independent and a full-time entrepreneur. “I reached out to him. I sold him and Fortune magazine on the concept of bridging the gap between urban culture and a respectable media outlet with a long history. Up to that point Fortune hadn’t paid much attention to hip-hop or the individuals who have found success in it. We changed that.”

The event, which honored Jeezy for his community service, also drew singer and songwriter Alicia Keys, actor and television personality Terrence J and Cleveland Cavalier Iman Shumpert. The affair attracted the esoteric attention Damas had hoped to grab. He had liftoff.

In a little over a year his company has sprouted, connecting a number of athletes and rappers to big-name companies for brand activation. The clientele includes Los Angeles Clipper Tobias Harris to the fitness studio Pure Barre, Golden State Warrior Nick Young to Postmates and rapper 2 Chainz to Lyft. The agency’s workforce numbers 10 and currently handles 15 clients.

“Marcus persevered,” says Skerry. “He’s a lot tougher than he looks. He’s a great example for some of our guys who are getting ready to go out into the real world soon. He didn’t love it here every day, but what we asked him to do, he did. He got through it. Those experiences no doubt are continuing to help him.

If you called him today and asked him about it, he would be as good a salesman as we’ve ever had. And I know he’s appreciative of what Towson did for him too.”

As for the future, Damas is determined to stay ahead of the game, know where everyone’s eyes are and be smack-dab in the middle of any conversation about what they’re looking at.

He’s also focused on what lured him back home—his family. He and his wife, Morgan, reside near his old Bay Shore neighborhood with their children, Maxwell, 6, and Madeline, 6 months.

Pete Schlehr ’71 is TU’s sports information director emeritus.

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